Honourable Omowunmi Olatunji-Edet is a second term lawmaker in the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Oshodi-Isolo State Constituency 2. In this interview with thegazellenews.com, the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Establishment, Training and Pension Matters speaks on her life as a Pastor, politician and lawmaker. Excerpts:
You will soon celebrate your 40th birthday, how do you feel reaching this age?
I give all the praises to the Almighty God who has not only counted me among the living but has also counted me among the privilege women.
God gave me the privilege of being one of the female members of this Assembly and looking at what I have become today, I have every reason to thank God in a special way. For me it is through the grace of God that I have achieved this and I will continue to hail and praise Him for the wonderful things He has done in my life.
Being 40 is good. I feel young. I feel 30, even I feel 25. I thank God for my life and I thank Him for the beautiful children He has given me. They are all doing well. I’m only their custodian but I thank God that He has assisted me a lot in my life.
As you clock 40, are there any special programme to mark the day?
In the first instance, thanksgiving to God for keeping me alive to witness this momentus day is a paramount programme.
Apart from this, on August 15 which is the real birthday date, I want to put smiles on the faces of the people through a mindblowing empowerment programme which is intended to encourage people to start and manage businesses of their own.
Through this programme, I want to empower the youths, the less privilege, women, the aged and even politicians. I want to put smiles on their faces. I have been doing empowerment programmes before but this is going to be a special one hence it is going to bigger than what we have done in the past.
Part of the birthday programme is also an inter-ward table tennis competition among youths in my constituency which covers Isolo and Ejigbo Local Council Development Areas. By the time this interview would have been published, the preliminary round of the competition would have commenced because we plan to have the final as part of the programme for the main birthday event on August 15. Of course, the winners will go home with beautiful prizes.
Included in the programme is the launching of my two books. One is ready and will be launched on August 15 while the second one will be launched in September.
This is a huge programme and very comprehensive, how much are you committing to this project?
I just believe I’m sowing a seed and all these are part of seed sowing for me which I cannot quantify in monetary term. Some of these programmes started years ago. For instance, I started writing the books years ago and I’m completing them to coincide with my birthday.
I initially wanted to distribute the books free but realise that people don’t value anything that is given out free. So you think of the money for printing the books, writing, typesetting and the money for the whole programme. I just don’t see this in monetary. It is a seed sowing meant to give thanks to God for sparing my life up till this time.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I am the last born of my family. My father had me when he was 50 years which means he is going to be 90 this year. My mother is late.
I had both my primary and secondary education at Akure. First at St. Mathias Primary School and then St. Luke Girls’ Grammar School both at Akure.
We were the first set of Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSCE). After my secondary education, I got admission to study Arts and Graphics Design at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi but somehow fate played a cruel one on me.
I participated in an Arts competition and I won the second position at the national final. I won the first position in the southwest. The competition was for all male and female secondary students in Nigeria.
The award was presented to the winners by former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB). I was so carried away by the award that I pushed myself further and tried to go to the United States of America (USA) but I was refused Visa by the US Embassy in Nigeria. To compound my problem, it was during my struggle to get Visa to travel to America that I lost my admission.
After losing my admission, I opted for diploma courses and I later had two diplomas in Data Processing and Data Base at a computer. I also had a degree in Theology from where I went into pastoral work. I got married in 1993 and became fulltime pastor in 1994.
At what time did you decide to go into politics?
My pastoral work has been taken me outside Nigeria to mainly some West African countries. It was when I came back from one of the trips that the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) started sentisising Christians on the need to go into politics. Base on this, I decided to participate and in 1999, I came out for the first time to contest for a councillorship position and I lost at the primary.
Again I contested on the platform of the then All Peoples Party (APP) I lost. In 2003, I was the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) for the House of Assembly election and I lost to Honourable Abdul Hakeem Abdul Lateef. I was compensated with a board appointment and I became a board member in one of the agencies under the jurisdiction of the Lagos State Ministry of Youths, Sports and Social Development and I served for four years.
When I learnt that Hon. Abdul Hakeem was not coming back for a second term, I decided to try again. I thank God that I won this time around and that was in 2007 and in 2011 again. Here we are today.
How did your husband reacted to your decision to go into politics?
Yeah, he supported initially. He wanted it knowing that I am a person that if I believe in something I will convince you to accept it. He knows that if I didn’t believe in something I don’t waste my strength on it.
However, later he started listening to people and unfortunately today we are no longer together. I’m divorced and I want to say that is how God wants it.
I never wanted it that way but I believe it was the wish of God. This is something that usually brings tears to my eyes hence I will rather not say more about it.
I believe in marriage, I believe in relationship. My parents gave me the right value and that is what I have lived with over the years. You know some people come into your life for a purpose and if they have fulfilled that purpose they will move on life continues. I am a happy woman today.
You said you daddy gave birth to you at the age of 50, then in that case you must have been pampered?
I don’t think so. I’m the last born in a family of nine but I was not pampered. I left home early. I left home because my father has an European mentality which for me was a kind of colonization. He always wants things done in western ways and I am somebody that’s ambitious. I want to explore new areas. I want to do so many things because I believe life has so many things to offer. I left home at a very tender age, at age seventeen have been sending money to my parents, then I was a teacher at Orile I got a job as a classroom teacher teaching in a nursery and primary school.
You know at a very tender age, I have been given out to people. Don’t forget that I got married at age 20; you can then imagine when I gave birth to my first child, at 21. Somebody even remarked then that ‘a baby is giving birth to a baby’. At 21 also I was a banker because I did my industrial attachment with then Satellite Town Community Bank.
I was working then, when you see some of my pictures then I looking so fragile but I could do so much because I believe there is something in me that is mightier than the frame, that’s what kept me on.
I have three kids; I had my first child at 21; my second at 23 going twenty four; and at 26 plus I stop having children; you can imagine at twenty six everything about baby is gone. My first born will be 20 this year. My first born is a boy and he is schooling in Canada and the second one will be 17 in January next year and the last born will be 14 so you can imagine.
After losing in 2003, how did you manage to pick the ticket in 2007 to your subsequent election into the Assembly in 2007?
I first of all study my environment. I know there are strong members of the community who can lobby and beg on my behalf and I went to them. Remember that I have been participating at the grassroots and these people know me. I have been on ground since 1999. My posters have always been very visible. I went to people who are very influential and know my antecedents and I continue to work with the people at the grassroots and today to God be the glory. He gave us victory at the end.
How smooth was the journey then?
The journey has been very turbulent, in fact very rough. A night before the primary in 2007, I had to go down to Alausa to check the list of the aspirants that can contest. It was 2am and my car broke down at Oworonshoki and that was the second time such thing will happen that day.
I have two cars: the Mercedes Benz I took from home broke down at Oshodi. I went back home, took the Bluebird car and that one also broke down at Oworonshoki. I was left in a state of confusion.
Just then we saw a bus going to Ojota and we practically jumped into it. My personal assistant, the two coordinators and I. We dropped at Ojota and crossed to the other side of the road where two prostitutes were haggling with a taxi driver. I rushed there and begged the taxi driver to take us promising to give him whatever the prostitutes wanted to give him in triplefold.
The man eventually took us and on reaching the Alausa gate, I jumped down from the car on motion, crossed over to the gate where the security man in charge said I cannot see Asiwaju. But I insisted he wanted to see me and when I mentioned my name he allowed me in and I practically ran into Asiwaju’s office where he was seated with the elders and leaders of the party.
They saw me and they said they were waiting to hear from me and the rest is now history. To God be the glory and I found myself here.
There’s this belief that female politicians always face harassment, how far have you been able to prevent this?
Well, I will throw the question back at you: when you look at me, my person, do you think it is easy to harass a person like me? I think is all about identity, if you know who you are and you carry yourself well, nobody will dare harass you.
As we move towards another general election in 2015, what is your political aspiration?
Everything depends on God. I look towards Him for guidance. But for me, I will like to repeat my class. I no know book and pikin wey no know book dey repeat class. Therefore, I want to repeat my class.
What’s your advice to other women?
My advice is for them to believe in themselves and always plan for whatever they believe in and remain consistent with it.
When I contested for councillorship seat and I lost, I remain consisten that I want to be a lawmaker and here I am today and again to God be the glory.